After a series of poor performances during his last two tournaments with OpTic Gaming, it looks like Spencer “Hiko” Martin is going to be removed from the lineup. Perhaps the nicest way to describe his performance over the past few months is “underwhelming.” But once upon a time, Hiko was North America’s shining star–the one player willing to forego money and superficial fame for a legitimate chance at meaningful success. In a scene riddled with slackers and pro-streamers, Hiko is a beautiful anomaly.
Leaving NA’s Best Lineup
In 2014, Hiko was in his prime. The compLexity roster has been picked up by Cloud9, and Hiko was the star. Players like Jordan “n0thing” Gilbert and Sean “sgares” Gares were popular in the NA scene, but Hiko was the guy holding it all together. C9’s rivals at the time, iBUYPOWER, were always considered to have a more talented lineup and often got the better of C9 head-to-head, but C9 often went further at international events.
The problems between Hiko and the C9 organization are quite well documented. Hiko thoguht it was obvious that C9’s roster simply wasn’t capable of winning tournaments, and began to call for players to be removed from the team. The organization refused. Hiko decided to leave the team, planning to join forces with members of the iBUYPOWER lineup. After the match-fixing scandal left these players banned from competing, the plans disappeared. Hiko was a star, but he didn’t have a team. Yet.
Searching For a Home
Tyler “Skadoodle” Latham was the only player on iBUYPOWER’s lineup at the time of the throw who wasn’t banned, and he was also NA’s best AWPer. In the post-iBP days, Skadoodle and Hiko joined forces to try and find a winning lineup. After a long and fruitless search, Skadoodle chose to join Cloud 9, where he was now competing alongside the lineup that Hiko had just left.
With Skadoodle leaving him high and dry, Hiko joined Nihilum Gaming, where he was paired up with former C9 teammate Kory “SEMPHIS” Friesen. The team was very disappointing. They struggled tremendously to compete at a high level, and their domestic results were dismal. After parting ways with Nihilum, the same lineup joined Maximum Effort.
Hiko would leave soon after, once again becoming a free agent.
At ESWC 2015, Hiko surprised everyone as a stand-in for FlipSid3 Tactics. With rising Ukranian star Oleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev by his side, Hiko and F3 upset Ninjas in Pyjamas, making an unexpected semifinals run with a team that few believed would put in a memorable performance at the event. ESWC 2015 was Hiko’s first taste of success since departing C9, but it wasn’t enough.
Shortly after ESWC, Hiko decided to join Team Liquid, a roster that finally lived up to his high standards–for once, Hiko’s team looked like it could develop into a serious threat on the international stage.
Making Liquid More Solid
When he first joined Liquid, Hiko was the biggest name on the team but players like Nicholas “nitr0” Cannella and Jonathan “EliGE” Jablonowski had a lot of hype and potential. Hiko was up to his old tricks as a clutch master and lurker, but it still wasn’t enough to win.
Liquid were eager to prove to Hiko that they shared his commitment, acquiring s1mple and up-and-coming AWPer Kenneth “koosta” Suen.
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Despite the loaded roster, Liquid had trouble putting it all together. Despite the roster problems, Liquid shocked the world at MLG Columbus, making a historic semifinal run on the back of s1mple’s incredible play. At this point, Hiko was a role player on the team, known for his incredible clutch play and ability to persevere through sheer force of will. For a brief period, it looked like Hiko was finally on his way to his goal of winning a major.
Not So s1mple
The next major was even more magical then the first for Liquid. This time, s1mple was even more explosive and the team were coordinated in a way they never had been before. At ESL One: Cologne 2016, Liquid became the first North American CS:GO team to ever make the finals of a major tournament. It looked like all of his tribulations were finally worth it as he had made it further than any other NA player before.
Unfortunately for Hiko, this is still the closest he’s gotten to his dream. With s1mple’s departure, Liquid lost their superstar carry. The lineup was still talented, but had problems working together. Hiko’s run with Liquid soon came to a close, and he was replaced by Peter “stanislaw” Jarguz, who assumed the in-game leader role.
Hiko still hasn’t won a major title, but his determination and drive are the two qualities that North America’s Counter-Strike scene has always lacked. More risk-takers like Hiko are needed.
Hiko dreamt the impossible dream, and he should be applauded for it.